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The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Policemen on the beat
in Britain, mid 20th century

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British policeman in genuine 1940s uniform

Policeman in 1940s uniform, photographed at Brooklands 1940s day.

Note that the strap of the helmet went above rather than below the chin, which was to prevent the helmet being pulled backwards as a strangling device.

After the end of World War Two and into the 1950s policemen were common sights on the streets. This had been so for many years, with the exception of the war years, not only as described in the early 1900s, but also for many years before. However it was to change later in the century, which makes it worth describing here.

While I was still young in the late 1940s and early 1950s, policemen walked alone on their beats rather than in pairs, and I understand that they still communicated with one another by blowing their special police whistles.

There were always so many policemen walking their individual beats in built-up areas that any one of them would always be in earshot of another's whistle. I never saw or heard a policeman blowing a whistle because I was never anywhere near a crime scene.

Police whistle, Britain 1040s

Detail showing policeman's whistle.

Policemen always seemed to be around when my mother took me out and we needed directions. However, I don't remember particular policemen staying with particular communities, although I lived in a town. It must have been different in rural areas.

A true story of 'on the beat'

On night patrol, a policeman needed to relieve himself, and so went off beat down an alleyway, and while so engaged noticed a man breaking into a local property. He then waited for the man to come out, and promptly nicked (arrested) him. The policeman was of course praised for this arrest. However the sergeant wanted to know why the arrest took place off of the policeman's beat. The reply was that having seen the man acting suspiciously the policeman had followed him to the scene of the crime.

as told by the policeman to Iris and Mark Bailey

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer